Hot Take Marathon: Kyle Kuzma Will Be An All-Star
Should the Lakers be the No. 1 seed in the West by the time the All-Star break comes around, it will be fitting that LA has a trio of representation in Chicago. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are locks, but the Lakers are destined to have a third player named to the 2020 Western Conference All-Stars.
Enter Kyle Kuzma.
Kuzma’s stats were pretty solid last season, even in an obvious down year for the 6-9 forward. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, despite shooting only 30.3% from three. His sophomore slump was evident, but Kuzma still came out strong, even as the Lakers were bombarded with constant trade rumors and speculation.
The next steps for Kuzma in his climb towards an All-Star selection will be improving his long-range jumper. And while all offseason gym workout videos must be taken with a grain of salt, there is still some evidence that suggests Kuzma has locked down a smoother shooting form.As mentioned, Kuzma’s outside shooting was way below adequate last season, so it’s encouraging to see him respond by attacking this exact weakness.
If Kuz can score almost 19 points a game with a horrendous 3-point shooting percentage, it’s only reasonable to expect over 20 points a game from Kuzma when he brings his percentage up to even average. In an offseason where Kuzma has fine-tuned the mechanics of his shot, his game is now due to elevate to All-Star heights.
Kuzma’s struggles from deep last season fit into a larger narrative of confusion and woe in Tinseltown. LeBron was obviously at the top of the Lakers’ pecking order, but after that, who was the best player on the team? Was it Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, or Lonzo Ball? Without any real hierarchy - especially down the stretch of close games when LeBron was absent - stunted Kuz. This lack of clarity actually took the ball out of Kuzma’s hands, and created a free-for-all where guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could get up taking (and airballing) critical late shots.
However, the deck has now been cleared with the departure of Ingram and Ball. Kuzma now knows exactly where he stands in the team’s ranking. LeBron is the best player, followed by Davis, followed by Kuzma. Knowing where he stands should lighten the burden of constantly guessing how to contribute, which removes one less obstacle in Kuzma’s path to stardom.
Kyle Kuzma is the third-best player on this team. And the third best player on the best team in the conference is exactly the type of player that makes the All-Star team. Think about all the times Draymond Green has made it. A player’s true value is inflated when he’s contributing on a team with a high winning-percentage, even if he’s not the source of the wins. There may be better players out there, but the coaches will vote the reserves in according to the wins/losses column.
Kuzma’s biggest competition for an all-star spot will be other fringe All-Star players in the West like Jamal Murray, D’Angelo Russell, CJ McCollum, and such. But should the Lakers claim the first seed, the two undeniable All-Stars in LeBron and Davis will not be enough. The Lakers’ excellence will have to be rewarded with a third all-star spot. The man to fill the void will be Kyle Kuzma.